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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

The fourth apparition: The 19th of August

Of all the torment, trial and terror inflicted by the magistrate on the three children of Fatima – 9-year-old Francisco Marto and 7-year-old Jacinta Marto, along with their 10-year-old cousin Lucia dos Santos – the most egregious offense was keeping them imprisoned on Aug. 13. They were heartbroken. Each of the three made a promise to the Lady to be at the Cova da Iria on the 13th of every month, and this month they were not there. With innocent, childlike reasoning they believed they had broken that promise and had disappointed her.

The following Sunday, Aug. 19, the children went to the Cova as usual to pray the rosary. They returned home for lunch. Afterwards, Lucía decided to go to Valinhos, not far away, to spend the afternoon in prayer. Francisco and his older brother John went with her. (John lived in the family home until his death on April 28, 2000.) Around 4 p.m. the air cooled, the sun paled, and they saw the typical flash of light that usually preceded an appearance of Our Lady.

John was excited to be there for this apparition, but Lucía ordered him to go home and return with Jacinta. After some coaxing and four pennies, John did just that. He found Jacinta at her godmother’s house. Taking her by the hand, he whispered the news to her. Together they raced to Valinhos. As soon as the two arrived, a second flash lit the area.

Now that the four children were together, on their knees and praying, the Lady in brilliant light appeared over a holm oak, slightly taller than the one at the Cova. Lucía would later recall that she had a sense that the Lady was rewarding them for their fidelity during their ordeal.

As in every apparition before, Lucía began by asking the Lady, “What do you want of me?”

“I want you to continue to come to the Cova da Iria on the 13th and to continue to say the rosary every day.”

Lucía told Our Lady of her sorrow over all the people who did not believe she was appearing. Lucía asked for a miracle or a sign so that everyone would believe.

“Yes,” Our Lady answered, “In the last month, in October, I shall perform a miracle so that all may believe in my apparitions. If they had not taken you to the village, the miracle would have been greater. St. Joseph will come with the Baby Jesus to give peace to the world. Our Lord also will come to bless the people. Besides, Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows will come.”

The miracle Our Lady promised was intended for the people, so that all would come to believe. The children had not asked for this sign so people would believe in them. Selflessly, they wanted everyone to believe so they could, too, could make reparations for sins against the Immaculate Heart and the Sacred Heart. The magistrate, the guards, the inquisitors, their collaborators and the crowds of people who insulted and harmed the children would still have a sign of her presence. Had their hearts not been hardened, the sign would have been greater.

Lucía remembered Senhora da Capelinha’s request and said: “What do you wish us to do with the money and the offerings that the people leave at the Cova da Iria?”

“Have two litters made. One is to be carried by you and Jacinta and two other girls dressed in white; Francisco is to carry the other with three boys also dressed in white robes. The money placed on the litters is for the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.” (A litter is a portable platform mounted on two poles and usually carried by four people. It is often used in religious processions to carry a statue or image of a saint, or as in Fatima, a statue of Mary.)

Lucía then spoke to Our Lady of the sick who had been recommended to her.

“Yes, I shall cure some of them within the year.” But she went on, teaching them to pray rather for the health of souls than of bodies. “Pray! Pray a great deal and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell for not having someone to pray and make sacrifices for them.”

The Lady’s apparition was not lengthy. She began to rise towards the east, as before and was gone.

The children were consoled by this visit from the Lady. This visit was special because it was intimate. There were no large crowds like there were at the Cova da Iria. At the Cova, people had stripped off every branch and twig from the holm oak. The children were never able to return with even a simple leaf. They decided to break off a small branch which the robe of the Lady had touched. John and Lucía stayed at Valinhos with the sheep, while Francisco and Jacinta rushed home with the branch to tell their parents of the unexpected visit of Our Lady.

The children’s desire for a sign from the Lady so that others might believe was, in a small way, answered by way of that branch. On the way to their house, Jacinta and Francisco passed by Lucía’s home. Lucía’s mother, sister and several neighbors were at the door.

“Aunt Maria Rosa,” Jacinta cried out with joy, “we saw Our Lady again! It was at Valinhos! See here, Our Lady had one foot on this twig and the other on that one.”

Jacinta gave the branch to Lucía’s mother. The mother’s face showed great surprise as she put the branch to her nose. “What does this smell of?” she asked. “It is not perfume, it’s not incense nor perfumed soap; it’s not the smell of roses nor anything I know, but it is a good smell.” The whole family gathered and each wanted to hold the branch and smell the beautiful scent.

From that moment, Lucía’s mother and her whole family slowly turned away from their opposition and disbelief.

The fifth apparition: The 13th of September

The words that stayed in the minds of the children were the last words spoken by Our Lady at Valinhos: “Pray, pray a great deal, and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell for not having someone to pray and make sacrifices for them.” All three, but especially Jacinta, had been praying and sacrificing. With those words, they had an even stronger desire for mortification, prayer and suffering. Their one longing was to close that terrifying furnace of hell so that no more souls could go there.

The children prayed much, but they sacrificed themselves even more. They trained their minds to discover new ways of suffering for the conversion of sinners. Lest others misunderstand the motives of their mortifications and prevent them from saving souls from hell, they kept this a secret between themselves. Only under orders from her superiors, many years later, did Lucía relate the extent of their sacrifices.

One of the many ways they mortified themselves would later be mentioned by Our Lady. While pasturing their sheep, they found a piece of rope. Playfully, Lucía tied it around her arm and soon discovered that it hurt. “Look, this hurts! We could tie this around our body for another sacrifice.” The rope was thick and very rough. They cut it in three pieces and tied it around their waists. The sharp pain it caused was difficult to endure, especially for little Jacinta. Lucía suggested that she take it off, but Jacinta insisted she keep it on to save sinners from hell. They even wore the rope to bed. This prevented them from getting the rest they needed to carry out their daily tasks.

Sept. 13 finally arrived. Before sunrise, crowds gathered around the children’s homes. Everyone wanted to speak to them or to ask a special remembrance to Our Lady. “When it came time to leave for the Cova da Iria,” Lucía would later write, “I left with Jacinta and Francisco, but there were so many people that we could hardly move a step. The roads overflowed with people. Everyone wanted to see and speak to us. There was no human respect in that crowd. Ordinary people, even noble ladies and gentlemen, succeeding in breaking their way through the crowd surrounding us, fell on their knees before us, asking that we bring their needs before Our Lady. Many others, unable to get near us, shouted, ‘for the love of God, ask Our Lady to cure my lame child... ask her to make my child see... to make my child hear... ask her to bring my husband and son back from the war... to convert a sinner... to make me, sick with tuberculosis, whole again.”

When they finally arrived at the holm oak, Lucía as usual started the rosary, with the people responding. They were almost finished when the children arose to scan the horizon. They had seen the flash that meant the Lady was arriving. A globe of light was visible to many in the crowd.

The Lady stood over the same holm oak. Again, Lucía began with the humble question, “What do you want of me?”

“Let the people continue to say the rosary every day to obtain the end of the war,” Our Lady responded. She renewed the promise she made during her last apparition. “In the last month, in October, I shall perform a miracle so that all may believe in my apparitions. If they had not taken you to the village, the miracle would have been greater. St. Joseph will come with the Baby Jesus to give peace to the world. Our Lord also will come to bless the people. Besides, Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows will come.

“God is pleased with your sacrifices but does not wish that you sleep with the rope. Wear it only during the day.”

Many years later Lucía wrote what many of the saints have before, that a most pleasing sacrifice to the Lord is offering your day to Him and doing your duties well. The children were not able to sleep with the rope. It affected how they watched over the sheep and how they carried out their other chores. Our Lady was gently teaching them this lesson.

“They have requested me to ask you many things,” Lucía then said. “This girl is a deaf mute. Don’t you want to cure her?”

“In the course of the year she will be improved.”

“Will you help these other people?” Lucía asked.

“Some I will cure; but the others, no. Our Lord does not have confidence in them.”

“The people would like very much to have a chapel built here,” Lucía suggested.

“Use half of the money received so far for the litters. On one of them, place the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary. The other half should be set aside to help with the building of the chapel.”

“Many people say that I am a swindler who should be hanged or burned. Please perform a miracle for all to believe,” Lucía begged.

“Yes, in October, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”

“Some people gave me these two letters for you and a bottle of cologne.” Lucía did not want to forget any requests.

“None of that is necessary for heaven.”

Our Lady then began to leave. Lucía, pointing towards the east, shouted to the people, “If you want to see Our Lady, look that way!” They looked eagerly towards the east and many saw the luminous globe now ascending towards heaven.

As soon as it disappeared, the whole crowd swarmed the three children, asking many questions and pressing them to tell them the secret. Their parents had to struggle to make their way through the crowd. Once they did, they brought the children home.

All was now in place for the next, and the last, apparition. The children were now prepared for what would come.

During this centennial anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal, the Catholic News Herald is publishing a series of commentaries examining each of her six visits to the children, the messages given to them and how Fatima’s past prepared the future to receive God’s divine plan for peace. Father James Ebright, priest in residence at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Gastonia, is among those writing this series on behalf of the Te Deum Foundation, online at www.tedeumfoundation.org.